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Corridor of the Infinite 1970s: Ditching the Dreary Paint And Stale Displays Could Work Wonders

Indranath Neogy -- The Tech

Douglas E.Heimburger

Alot has changed in the past year along the Infinite Corridor. The Fishbowl has departed, taking with it the sight of sleep-deprived students, and the new Student Services Center has opened, with its bright alcoves and color-coordinated furniture.

Yet even with these changes - which could be considered monumental by MITstandards - the Infinite Corridor still looks like it hasn't really been updated since the 1970s.

Anyone who walks down the corridor can see that many of the displays are very dated. Except for the bulletin boards for general use, which are so heavily used they are cleaned off twice a week, many poster areas seem like they haven't changed since the days when hippies were the rage and when tear gas was used to deter war protesters on west campus.

Most of the posters in the corridor that are more permanentfixtures haven't been updated even stylistically since the 1970s. Indeed, there aren't any posters signifying MIT's contribution to the humanities, political science, and economics, three fields that have strengthened considerably in stature since that time.

Even if the content were relevant, these displays make still the entire corridor look dated. With their 1970s fonts and brownish colors to the hair styles portrayed in the pictures, the displays make the Institute look like it hasn't really advanced since that time.

Student groups that have a permanent space in the corridor help to make the corridor look dated. Until recently, WMBR's poster space had a sign-up for its Fall 1996 open house, replete with LEDlights powered by batteries that had lost their juice several months ago. Several theater groups displays were also out of date, displaying information about their spring or even Independent Activities Period performances.

The Undergraduate Association, indeed, is particularly notorious - and it has one of the most visible bulletin boards, located in Lobby 7. Until recently, the UA's boards displayed information about the Airport Shuttle, which took students from their dormitories to Logan Airport at the end of last term.

Even the colors of the Infinite Corridor are decidedly 1970s-ish. After all, when was the last time that anyone (not usingInstitute-provided paint)painted a dorm room in any one of the colors like bright green, red, and purple that cover the walls between the buildings that make up the corridor. Of course, the rest of the walls in the corridor aren't much brighter, having been painted in the almost-brown Institute white that's all over campus.

Fortunately, there have been improvements made to the corridor recently, namely the brightening of the area around the StudentServices Center with an alcove for meeting people and new windows looking in on an Athena Quickstation cluster. But much remains to be done to make the corridor more modern and more reflective of the Institute of today.

In MIT's vast bureaucracy, of course, a committee must exist for this purpose, and one does. The Building Committee is composed of many people including the president, the chairman of the MIT Corporation, the director of Physical Plant, and the director of the Planning Office. According to Director of Special Projects Stephen D. Immerman, the committee has review and approval authority for redesigns of areas like the Infinite Corridor and Lobby 7.

Hopefully, the committee has taken note of the recent state of the Infinite Corridor. If they were to consider an upgrade, they don't have to walk far to find a decent model. After all, there are numerous examples of better design on campus that could very easily be emulated in the corridor. The new displays in Building 56, for example, display historical things in a much more effective way than the Infinite Corridor displays do. While the topic of the display - hacks - is more humorous than those in the corridor, the display style alone could be copied into the corridor to brighten and modernize the space.

In places where they really aren't needed, the bulletin boards could be removed entirely. The boards in Lobby 7, for example, were installed within the last 25 years. If they were removed, the entire lobby would seem a lot less cluttered and more in tune with the image that the space should project. The drop posters still have a place, though; they at least provide timely information that really personalizes MITto visitors and shows what's happening right now.

That's more than can be said for the reams of stale posters that advertise events from two weeks ago. The UAbulletin boards, like the"Official Notices"board on the other side of the Lobby, are of little interest to students and reflect poorly on the Institute as a whole.

Other ideas for the corridor would require significantly more work. Creating more alcoves like the StudentServices Center entryway could provide new places for students to congregate and would make the entire main campus space more personable. Better, brighter lighting would also improve the experience, especially at night, when the Institute's "energy-saving"bulbs cast only a dim glow over the long hallway.

The Infinite Corridor and Lobby 7 are two of the most visible places for visitors on campus. Revising and modernizing the displays - and removing those that don't serve a purpose - would take steps toward making it a more welcome place for visitors and MITstudents alike. Permanent renovations to expand the space for informal meetings would be even better.

Any change, however, would go a long way toward removing the dark, decrepit look of the corridor and would perhaps make life just a little less depressing for the thousands of people who pass through the space every day.